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Wow: Ohio Announces $1 Million Prizes for Five Randomly-Selected Vaccinated Residents

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Earlier this week, we wrote about some jurisdictions' efforts to encourage vaccinations among the hesitant, including free booze and relatively small direct payments. In passing, we mentioned the idea of "creating a lottery wherein a lucky vaccine recipient will have a chance to win a large pot of money (which more or less turns people's inherent weakness at comprehending odds or assessing risk into a force for good)." That suggestion had been floating around social media for weeks, and it somehow felt apt. As highlighted in the post, the data is demonstrating that many of the fence-sitters are ambivalent and non-ideological, so traditional political or tribal messaging campaigns are unlikely to move them from "maybe" to "yes." More universal, apolitical incentives, however, might move the needle. And what's more universal than the appeal of randomly million dollars? Over to you, Gov:


Step right up. Honestly, I don't hate it. If appealing to irrationality helps solve a problem caused by irrationality (again, I'm talking about vaccine-hesitant people, not people who've looked at the issue carefully and have chosen to eschew the vaccine), have at it. This money has already been spent. Pad your stats, Ohio; it's in the public interest. And if it works, other states will almost certainly follow suit. Hell, if I were undecided about getting immunized, this stunt would certainly get my attention. I'll be fascinated to see how effective this is, compared to approaches in other places. In West Virginia, certain segments of the population are guaranteed $100 state bonds to get the jab. In New Jersey and elsewhere, they're guaranteed a pint on the house. A few more examples of creativity playing out: 


The Kentucky Lottery is giving away coupons for a free Cash Ball game ticket to adults who get their first or second vaccine shot at Kroger or Walmart stores. The state of Maine is offering free hunting or fishing licenses, LL Bean gift cards or other prizes to residents who get their shots by Memorial Day.  The U.C.L.A. COVID-19 Health and Politics Project found that people said they'd be more willing to be vaccinated if offered cash payments of $25 to $100.

How will ironclad incentives stack up against the possibility, albeit remote, of striking it rich? I guess we'll find out. Under our system of democracy laboratories, you'd better believe that other governors will be watching Ohio's results very carefully. Nearly five million Ohioans have gotten vaxxed up to this point, so the odds of winning are almost exactly one-in-a-million. But considering that there's almost no downside whatsoever to getting inoculated against a nasty disease, why not give it a shot, so to speak? I understand that some people will grumble that this sort of gimmick is decadent and wasteful and stupid –– why should we need to offer shiny objects to convince people to do something that's obviously good? – to which I say: Get over it. The reality is what it is. You can spend your energy stewing on the situation or you can see things as they exist and adapt. I'll leave you with mounting, glorious evidence that the vaccines are indeed ending this awful pandemic in places where shots are prevalent: 


By the way, I'm feeling increasingly justified in my recently-articulated stance that people should just go get vaccinated then proceed to ignore what the bungling, politicized CDC has to say: 

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission. But the number is almost certainly misleading. It appears to be based partly on a misclassification of some Covid transmission that actually took place in enclosed spaces (as I explain below). An even bigger issue is the extreme caution of C.D.C. officials, who picked a benchmark — 10 percent — so high that nobody could reasonably dispute it. That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation. Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving...These recommendations would be more grounded in science if anywhere close to 10 percent of Covid transmission were occurring outdoors. But it is not. There is not a single documented Covid infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table.

I'm not the only one noticing the credibility and coherence gap: 

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